County Council Clashes – Sheriff Calls for Calm

Laurens County Council chambers were filled with folks last night, many concerned that County Council is reconsidering a 4-2 vote at the previous meeting. That vote was to enter a contract with a company named Spy Glass, which had advised the county they found the county has been paying $3,300 a month for a data line that has not been used in years.

Council Chair Joe Wood announced early in the meeting that Councilman Ted Nash wanted to change his vote from yes to no. Had he voted that way, the vote would have been a 3-3 stalemate. Chairman Wood and Councilman David Pitts cast the two no votes. Pitts had expressed concern about county staff not finding unneeded spending.

In a memo to council about their concern, Administrator Jon Caime had stated “I never thought my intention of exposing government waste would be something not supported.” As to the cost of the service, which is to be paid the saved amount for one year, Camie noted that, otherwise, the county would spend the money anyway.

County 911 Communications Director Joey Avery suggested that the figures on the alleged wasteful spending were not as bad as indicated.

During Public Comment, some county residents spoke out in favor of the work by Spy Glass, which Administrator Jon Caime had authorized to begin an audit of Tel-com spending. County resident Brenda Lopez Stewart was the last to speak, and listed her concerns on the need to find and stop wasteful spending. Council Chair Joe Wood began to go through her points and dispute their accuracy. Joe Wood suggested that Ms. Stewart’s “facts” were based on what she learned in social media, the Clinton Chronicle and “a little bird.” She replied that she had carefully researched the issue. Some called out to the Chair to “Let her speak.” Wood said he wanted to respond to her charges, and made more reference to the idea of her information coming from a “little bird.”

At one point of the interaction, Council Stewart Jones jumped up and called the proceedings “a joke.” Chairman Wood asked Sheriff Reynolds, who was in attendance, to escort Councilman Jones out of the building. The Sheriff said he would sit with Jones, if needed, but asked for calm, and to let the people talk.

With the atmosphere deteriorating, there was a motion to adjourn. County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks called for a vote, but it was a 3-3 tie.

One county resident who had attended the meeting later told WLBG “I’m glad I attended. That was better than wrestling.”